The European Court of Justice has recently ruled that a website operator which is solely linked to material that infringes copyright, can itself be found liable for copyright infringement, provided that the website operator knew or could reasonably have known that the material was infringing the copyright. Moreover, according to the ruling, the website operator's knowledge of the infringement will be presumed if the links were provided for profit.

The particular case involved a Dutch news website named GeenStijl which repeatedly posted hyperlinks to Playboy photographs of a local TV presenter, even after Playboy’s Dutch publisher at the time requested it to stop linking to the copyrighted material.

The main implication arising from this ruling is that simply posting hyperlinks to pirated material can constitute copyright infringement if made wittingly or for financial gain. In other words, even merely running ads on a webpage that link to infringing material (without actual knowledge of the infringement) would trigger the liability. It seems likely that this decision could have far reaching implications for publishers and advertising networks.